Stoney Steenkamp’s Dream Factory (#1)

sunrise“He did it!”. Kleinpiet points at the advert in the Upington Post. “I always thought he was a bit mad, but now…”

The small advertisement under “Personal Services” is almost unremarkable between the others offering body massages, willing-to-travel-girls and the prominent one of Hot Naught who promises ‘exquisite joy and release of tension‘. Kleinpiet hastily explains that he saw the advert ‘quite by chance‘ while he was searching for a new carburettor for his pickup. Still, the little insert on the back page is responsible for a pregnant silence after the group read it.

Dreams available at bargain prices. No previous experience required. Completely organic. Contact Stoney Steenkamp, Onkruidbult.

“That man! I remember the first time he started experimenting with that crazy idea.” Gertruida adopts her lecturer-mode, which means you cannot even think of interrupting her. “But it is a known fact that certain foods have an influence on tryptophan and serotonin  – as well as other neurotransmitters in the brain. Cheese, chillies, and especially red meat are the prime foodstuffs that may influence the brain’s function during sleep, often causing lucid dreams in the process.

“Now, Stoney had this theory about dreams. He reckoned that something in the meat triggered the brain to conjure up certain images. That’s what his research was all about. Maybe he made a breakthrough?”

“Nah…” Vetfaan empties his glass and signals for another beer. “His ‘research’ was way too crude. Imagine! If you eat lamb, you’ll dream of green pastures and rustling brooks. And if you eat springbok, you’ll be the only man in a herd of lovely ladies – what a nightmare! I mean…that is pure bulldust, man! I tried it and it doesn’t work. Anyway, I can’t remember my dreams after I wake up…”

“Maybe that’s his secret?” Joining them at the counter, Servaas sits down with a sigh. “When you wake up, Stoney tells you what you dreamed. That way he’ll have a 100% accurate result on his prediction and you can’t prove him wrong.”

Stoney Steenkamp is one of those strange hermits you tend to find in the Northern Cape. Living alone on his farm, he turned to science to combat boredom. It is entirely true that this arid and sprawling landscape has been the source of many of South Africa’s most creative minds; a fact Gertruida ascribes to the many idle hours spent alone. People here – like in other isolated regions of the planet –  are forced to use their minds to escape the monotonous days and nights during which nothing happens. Walter Battiss, Eli Louw, Olive Schreiner, authors, songwriters and numerous clergymen attest to the creative instinct that prevented men and women  from talking to themselves all day long.

Stoney’s tendency to fall asleep while watching his sheep made him curious about the only entertainment he had – his dreams. He started keeping a dream-diary, noting what he dreamed and when. Then he tried to correlate the type of dream with environmental influences. For instance: during the cold winter nights, his imagination conjured up images of igloos and polar bears. Or when he slept through an occasional thunderstorm, he’d be storming up Amajuba to shoot at the Brits. Should the wind pick up, Stoney would be standing at the helm of a schooner, chasing a pirate across the ocean.

Of course Stoney couldn’t keep these scientific findings to himself. Whenever he arrived in Rolbos to buy sheep dip from Sammie’s Shop, he’d inform the group at the bar about his latest observations. In one of his sarcastic moods, Servaas once suggested that Stoney’s research was truly unique and that his findings should be published in one of the scientific journals or even the Huisgenoot, which only served to encourage Stoney to be more enthusiastic about his research. His need for more  information resulted in a need for more sleep, which of course had a negative impact on the size of his flock.

The last time he visited Rolbos, Gertruida told him to take note of what he ate before dropping off in yet another slumber, as this may also influence dreams. Stoney tried it the same night. The next morning he announced that peach brandy was a dream-killer. Gertruida had to tell the poor man that alcohol should not be part of his research, explaining that alcohol dissolves fat, and that fat is a major component of the brain. Stoney wrote that down in his journal, as well.

“How can he advertise dreams on demand and then have the gall to charge money for it? It’s a ridiculous idea.” Servaas knits his brows together while he concentrates to keep his bushy moustache from sinking into the froth as he downs his beer.”He should do something constructive with his time, like advising ESCOM or something. They need a few big dreams, if you asked me,”

Like with so many foolhardy ideas hatched in an around Rolbos, it would have been entirely normal for the group at the bar to have a good old laugh at such silliness before forgetting about it completely. And they would have….if Stoney didn’t rock up a week or two later to say he needed to buy some sheep to replenish his flock – with cash! 

“My dream-business has taken off! You won’t believe the orders I get, specially from politicians, artists and people in the advertising community. I’ve pushed up my price, but that doesn’t deter them…the orders just keep on flooding in.”

Now…we all know Gertruida. She hates a mystery. No-one was surprised when she announced her intention to visit Onkruidbult.This is in keeping with her natural curiosity, after all. What they didn’t expect, was her reaction on what she experienced there….

(To be continued…)

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